Preparing for Camp Skillz 2016

Refusing to Lower the Bar on Summer Camp 

Planning is under way for Camp Skillz! If you’ve been following our work for the last couple of summers, you already know about Camp Skillz, but I’ll give a quick summary to those that need it: Camp Skillz is a camp that provides educational programming for youth that would otherwise have little access to enriching activities during the summer time. It runs from June 7 - July 22. The camp is made affordable thanks to a generous grant given by the Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency that offers grants for “summer programs serving low- to moderate-income youth.” We were awarded two grants to help us offer summer programing at two locations, one at our property in Hopewell and one in Antioch.

Campers are cared for by a committed staff and a host of volunteers from our youth program, SLAM. SLAM participants come from around the country to learn the Bible and participate in service opportunities for kids in the Nashville area. 

When we put on the camp for the first time in Antioch last summer, many campers told us that they would "just be watching TV” if it were not for Camp Skillz. But our goal isn’t just to be better than mindless TV gazing. “Something is better than nothing” is not a phrase we use around our organization. Instead, the phrase you’re likely to hear is “we don’t do dumb,” -- i.e., we refuse to lower the bar, or just get by. We want Camp Skillz to be excellent, to offer the kind of quality programming that we believe the kids deserve. And that all takes planning.

I’ve been working for various summer camps for more than a decade. I started in High School, so I know the basic elements that go into your average camp: team-building exercises, sports, arts and crafts, etc. We’ll have those things, sure, but our goal is not just another standard camp. We are followers of Jesus, so what we do should always burst the mold of what is common.

Our Antioch site is run at an apartment complex that is home to a large number of immigrants and refugees. With parents working multiple jobs and school out of session, Camp Skillz is an extremely helpful service to these families.  

So as we plan, that’s what’s on my mind. How can we be excellent? How can our programming be marked by the distinctiveness of our Lord? I’m still praying about it, but I’ll give you two things I know must be present this summer: The love among our staff and the depth of what we teach.

We’re going to be busy planning logistics for the next couple of weeks. What we're not busy doing is just getting to know each other.  I’m glad that I’ve known Rafael Reyes, Stephanie Price, Rachel Nowlin (my fellow counsellors) for longer than just a few weeks. It’s easy to focus on planning when we’ve laid a lot of groundwork already! In fact, all of us worked together this past semester at our CASE after-school program. More than just a staff, I hope the kids will witness the love that we have for one another, even under the heat and various pressures of the summer.

The Camp Skillz staff is made up of several K-12 teachers from our Academy and tutors from our after-school program. They are well-equipped to combine summer fun with ongoing learning exercises. 

We also want to excel in the depth of education we offer. People often set the bar very low for what children can learn. But we know that each person was created with enormous potential. We want our programming to acknowledge that potential and foster it in ways that children respond to. More than just fun diversions, we want to offer valuable lessons that help kids identify their own power to make strong relationships and solve conflict. Educational substance and the summertime are not always easy to combine, so we’ll have to think creatively about how we do it.

These are the things that are on my mind as we plan for the summer. I feel in myself the temptation to go on auto-pilot, to just rely on what I’ve already done. But even after many summers, I’m as convinced as ever that I need the LORD to make something that will really be special.

So as we plan for this great opportunity to serve kids, please be in prayer that God will guide us in creating a loving staff dynamic, and that we’ll think of ways to fill our activities with the life-giving lessons that God has given to us.